DETROIT (AP) -Red Wings rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson went from the operating room to the Stanley Cup finals ice in a span of three days.
Ericsson skated for about 10 minutes Wednesday morning to prepare for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, but abdominal pain cut that session short. Only hours later, he was in surgery to have his appendix removed.
He missed playing in Detroit's clinching victory over Chicago, but wasn't about to sit out the opener of the Stanley Cup finals against Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
Once he got medical clearance, it was just about managing the pain.
"I am playing," the 25-year-old native of Sweden said Saturday morning, "They cut my muscles open so it's going to be sore there for a while."
Ericsson woke up from surgery about 2 hours before the Red Wings faced off against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. Unable to see the game on TV in the hospital, Ericsson was driven to Joe Louis Arena.
"They told me that usually you spend the night there, but I didn't have anywhere to watch the game so they took me in a wheelchair to the car," Ericsson said "Then I kind of stumbled in the locker room and watched the game in here."
Ericsson's girlfriend took him home after the game, as the young defenseman wasn't cleared to drive, but he has been assured that he isn't at greater risk for further injury by returning so soon.
"It's just a matter of pain. So I have that in my mind and everything should be fine," he said. "It feels like it's kind of ripping up every time I do sudden movements, but afterward it's not like feeling worse than it did before.
"I am not concerned. It's not going to get worse. That's what the doctor said. I believe him, I trust him, I dealt with him before. I put all my trust in him. I don't think anything is going to get worse."
OFF-ICE STAR POWER: The Stanley Cup finals rematch between the Penguins and Red Wings is full of stars, from Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom.
But the teams also feature a few off-the-ice luminaries.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have taken in a Penguins playoff game or two in recent weeks, while the Wings count among their celebrity backers actress Kristen Bell and musician Kid Rock.
Actor John C. McGinley, a Red Wings fan, watches the games from his home in Malibu, Calif., and he tends to be a tad superstitious.
"I rotate throughout the house like I do for New York Giants football games. Whenever things are going bad, I switch my seat," said the star of the ABC comedy "Scrubs."
McGinley's rooting interest in Detroit stems from his friendship with 47-year-old Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, who lives and trains part of the year in Malibu.
McGinley, Chelios and some other pals who have properties in the seaside community, including actor John Cusack and former tennis star John McEnroe, comprise a group they lovingly call the "Malibu Mob." Detroiter Kid Rock is the latest Mob inductee.
While McGinley will "be watching Cheli in high-def" in southern California, fellow actor Michael Keaton expects to be at Mellon Arena for Games 3 and 4 this coming week, watching his hometown team with his son.
"You ask anybody who knew anything about hockey (last year), and they would have said: 'We were good. They were better,"' he said. "This year, different story, baby. Different story."
WIN ONE FOR THE REGION: Much has been made of how the Red Wings' latest Stanley Cup finals run is serving as a welcome distraction for a region and state suffering from a painful decline in the automotive industry.
Wings coach Mike Babcock is mindful of his team's role in taking people's minds of the recession.
"I said to (general manager) Kenny Holland before the end of the Ducks series that I thought it was very important that we won for the city of Detroit and for Michigan just because of that," Babcock said. "I know tons of families that have lost their jobs and are losing their homes."
Babcock said he knows of a few people associated with his kids' sports teams that are out of work.
"We know one family that's moving out of their home this weekend," he said. "That's going on all over Michigan, obviously.
"So a lot of those people aren't going to be at this game," he said Saturday. "They obviously can't afford to come, but they'll be at home watching TV tonight, and we'll do our part."
OCTO-YUMMY: A Detroit-area seafood company hosted an "octopus tasting party" on Saturday, treating guests to a free sampling of octopus chili, octopus salad and even barbecued octopus.
The Superior Fish Company has gained a reputation as a go-to place to buy the slimy mollusks, which have been tossed onto the Joe Louis Arena ice over the past half-century to celebrate a good play or goal.
"We're offering everybody the opportunity to savor the flavor of a hockey tradition," said co-owner Kevin Dean.
The Royal Oak business also is displaying a giant octopus, which it had flown in from Seattle. Wings fans and other curious folks have been rolling into Superior Fish since the playoffs began to have their pictures taken next to the octopus, which weighs in at 45 pounds and is 65 inches from head to toe.
Talbot wanted the Red Wings to eliminate the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night because that prevented Pittsburgh from having a long wait before the championship series began.
If the Red Wings were forced to a sixth game, the Stanley Cup finals wouldn't have started until next Friday. That would have given the Penguins nine days off following their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I don't think I could have made it 10 days with all the butterflies in my stomach," Talbot said. "I rooted for Detroit because I wanted to play this weekend."
The quick wrap-up of both series set up the finals opener in Detroit on Saturday night followed by Game 2 on Sunday.
AP Hockey Writer Ira Podell contributed to this report.